Chelsea Prospers, Chamber Ready to Host Tree Lighting November 29

Chelsea Prospers, Chamber Ready to Host Tree Lighting November 29

All are invited to attend the Chelsea Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration on Thursday, Nov. 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Chelsea Square.

Presented by the City of Chelsea and the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, the celebration brings two hours of family-friendly activities including music, dance, and crafts to Chelsea Square.

“The Tree Lighting has been a long standing tradition in Chelsea,” said City Manager Thomas Ambrosino. “Last year’s event was a great success and we’re looking forward to bringing the community together again. Positive momentum is building and I’m pleased at this latest opportunity to draw more people to the area to shop, dine and gather with their neighbors.”

This year’s program includes performances by a choir from the Chelsea High School, Off Broadway Dance Studio, and the Back Bay Bell Ringers.  Everyone will have a chance to support a good cause with crafts for sale from Empty Bowls. Decorate a gingerbread person to eat right away or bring home. Free refreshments will be provided by Chelsea Chamber of Commerce businesses. Bringing back a tradition of years past, Santa is scheduled to make a dramatic entrance courtesy of the Chelsea Fire Department.

“The Chamber is excited for this time of year,” said Chamber Acting President Joe Mahoney.  “In addition to serving our member organizations and supporting the general commerce of Chelsea, we strive to bring positive programming the whole community can enjoy.”

The Tree Lighting Celebration is one of three events kicking off the winter holiday season.  Saturday, Nov. 24 is Small Business Saturday presented by the Chamber and Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s downtown initiative, a day to celebrate and support small, locally-owned businesses. The following Saturday, Dec. 1, is the Chamber’s annual Breakfast with Santa event at the Williams School.

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Outdoor Graduation One Step Closer as Council Considers $170K Fix

Outdoor Graduation One Step Closer as Council Considers $170K Fix

Members of the Chelsea High School Class of 2019 are a step closer to getting their wish of an outdoor graduation on the new high school field.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino is requesting the City Council approve spending $170,000 from the City’s Stabilization Account to buy a protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.

“This removable, plastic covering will allow for greater use of the field for non-sporting events, including allowing for an outdoor graduation for the Chelsea High School Class of 2019,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.

The city is in the midst of a $3 million-plus upgrade of Veterans Field at Chelsea High School. The first phase of the project, replacement of the artificial turf and the new track, is scheduled for completion this fall, according to Ambrosino. A second phase involving lighting and restrooms will continue in the spring.

The new turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if certain uses occur on the field, including large static crowds, spiked heels, or chairs with four legs. The City Manager said these restrictions would all but eliminate the use of the surface for any non-sporting events.

“One method for eliminating this problem is to purchase a removable, protective surface for the turf, which is how the problem is handled in many large artificial turf stadiums across the country,” Ambrosino stated. “However, we did not budget for such a protective surface in this project.”

At the request of the school, Ambrosino is asking the Council to approve the additional funding through the School Capital Stabilization Account, which Ambrosino said was specifically established for these types of School Department capital expenditures.

At its Monday night meeting, the council voted to take up the issue in its Finance Subcommittee.

The request from the City Manager was good news for Chelsea High Senior Manuel Teshe, who addressed the Council earlier this month about senior class fundraising efforts to secure an outdoor graduation.

“Mr. Tom Ambrosino made me feel like people were listening to us after all the work we did,” said Teshe. “We felt alone, and now we appreciate the chance that the City is even considering it.”

Prior to hearing from Ambrosino, Councillors Ray Avellaneda, Leo Robinson, and Yamir Rodriguez introduced an order asking the City Manager to explore the purchase of an event decking system. After hearing about Ambrosino’s request to use the stabilization funds for the purchase, Avellaneda withdrew the order.

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Council Pay Cut Doesn’t Fly in Monday Vote

Council Pay Cut Doesn’t Fly in Monday Vote

A proposed $6,000 per year pay cut for City Councillors was handily defeated Monday night.

District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop proposed slashing councilors’ salaries from $14,000 to $8,000 annually as a way to begin a wider budget belt tightening across all City departments.

“The councillors all work very hard for the stipend they are given,” said Bishop. “This is not to indicate that we are not working hard. It’s not easy, and the job has become more demanding than it was 20 to 30 years ago.”

Rather, Bishop said the salary cut was needed as part of the Council taking a hard look at the City’s financial situation.

“The tax rate just goes up and up, and there is only one solution,” he said. “We have to cut the budget. Where do we start?”

While Bishop said there should be cuts across the board in all departments, the Council should start the process in its own chambers.

District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda argued that cutting the Council pay so drastically could limit the pool of candidates for office, noting the long hours, travel, and constituent services each councillor puts into the job.

Perlatonda said that councillors in Malden make $17,500 per year, and in neighboring Revere, the City Council salary is set at $18,000 per year and councillors there are eligible for health insurance and other benefits.

Councillors in Chelsea do not get any additional benefits.

The salary cut was defeated by a 9-2 vote, with only Council President Damali Vidot voting alongside Bishop.

  • In other Council business Monday night, several orders introduced by District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero were sent to committee for further discussion.

One order introduced by Recupero and District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez asked City Manager Tom Ambrosino to implement a policy where any company that does work in the city remove any equipment that is moveable and has rubber tires after work hours.

Recupero said that many parking spaces are lost in the city as large construction vehicles remain parked on city streets overnight.

“There’s no need to have all these big dump trucks in all these areas,” he said. “They are taking very precious parking spaces away from the people.”

Several councillors said they understood Recupero’s sentiment with the order, but felt it was too broadly written and could have a larger impact than he intended, if passed.

“I love to support anything that improves the lives of residents, but this is so broad,” said District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia. She said that if a more defined, revised version of the order came back before the Council, she would be happy to support it.

Bishop did attempt an amendment to the order on the floor, but Vidot and several other councillors said they were uncomfortable with the process of making policy on the fly. Councillor-At-large Leo Robinson moved to send the order to committee to get a better handle on costs and impacts of Recupero’s proposal.

  • The majority of the Council also recommended further study of another order introduced by Recupero. Recupero asked that when the City Manager hires new employees, that he implement the same procedures used to prove residential tax exemptions.

Several councillors pointed out that the order as proposed by Recupero was too limiting, since the residential tax exemption only applies to homeowners and not renters.

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Chelsea Collaborative Holds Thanksgiving Dinner:Launch of Immigration Justice Bond Fund Announced

Chelsea Collaborative Holds Thanksgiving Dinner:Launch of Immigration Justice Bond Fund Announced

The Chelsea Collaborative hosted its annual Thanksgiving Dinner last Thursday at its headquarters at 318 Broadway.

Collaborative President Gladys Vega and her staff welcomed members of the community, who enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner and desserts. There was also a cotton candy station for children.

A large group of staff members and volunteers, led by Board President Rosalba Medina, helped serve the many food items to the guests in attendance.

But this year the celebration was a little different as the Collaborative announced the launch of the Immigrant Justice Bond Fund, in conjunction with EECO organization and the Episcopal City Mission that includes the St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea.

The fund is being set up to assist family members with people in detention centers to pay bonds established by immigration judges, with the purpose of reuniting them with their loved ones.

The Collaborative works hard with relatives who have come to its offices for assistance in locating their loved ones who have been detained by immigration agents. During the effort to locate and to be able to acquire the pro-bono services of lawyers, the Collaborative is faced with the obstacle of not having the necessary funds to help people out of detention.

It is for this reason that the Collaborative has joined forces with ECCO and Episcopal City Mission to find financial alternatives to pay bond. Chelsea Collaborative is honored to now be an organization that can count on these funds and get mothers and fathers out of detention centers.

Once the funds are used, payment agreements will be established so that these funds can always be available to other people in detention. After being released, people will be connected with legal and social resources to establish an individual plan for each family.

During the speaking program, Vega stated that the Collaborative was ready to assist residents with the agency’s many services and programs, and also to direct them to the appropriate groups for legal advice.

Yessenia Alfaro, deputy director at the Collaborative, felt the event, that drew a large turnout on a night that the first snowstorm of the season was approaching, was a huge success.

“It’s a blessing that so many people came here to tonight to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, and we’re grateful for our partnership with the ECCO organization and Episcopal City Mission in launching this important fund,” said Alfaro.

Several residents thanked Gladys Vega for her outstanding leadership of the Collaborative and the agency’s continuing diligence in helping all members of the community.

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Ambrosino: ‘Board Made a Mistake’ in Denying Traggorth Proposal

Ambrosino: ‘Board Made a Mistake’ in Denying Traggorth Proposal

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the City would defend the Zoning Board of Appeals’ (ZBA) September decision to deny an affordable housing project on upper Broadway, but at the same time he said he personally believes the ZBA made a “huge mistake.”

The ZBA denied the 42 unit affordable- and market-rate residential development at 1001 Broadway in a narrow vote that was based on creating more homeownership opportunities in the City. The project included nine units of market-rate housing and enhanced access to the Mill Creek waterfront.

And Ambrosino said, personally, he feels like the Board should have vote for the project.

“Personally, I think the Board made a big mistake in denying that project,” he said. “Affordable housing is the single most critical issue facing the city and to reject an affordable housing project is ludicrous. It’s the single biggest issue I hear about every week in this office. Denying that project will not create one single unit of home ownership.”

Last week, developers Traggorth and The Neighborhood Developers (TND) indicated they would appeal the decision in Suffolk Superior Court, believing that the project had ample community support.

Ambrosino said the City would defend the decision to deny, as it does have to, but his personal opinion differs.

“The City will defend the decision of the Board of Appeals,” he said. “My personal opinion is I like the project and supported the project. I wish them well (in their appeal).”

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MS-13 Leader Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison for RICO Conspiracy

MS-13 Leader Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison for RICO Conspiracy

The leader of MS-13’s Eastside Loco Salvatrucha (ESLS) clique was sentenced last week at federal court in Boston for RICO conspiracy.

Edwin Guzman, a/k/a “Playa,” 32, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 16 years in prison and three years of supervised release. In February 2018, Guzman and two other MS-13 members, Herzzon Sandoval, a/k/a “Casper,” 36, and Erick Argueta Larios, a/k/a “Lobo,” 33, were convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy. A fourth MS-13 member, Cesar Martinez, a/k/a “Cheche,” 37, was convicted at the same trial of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.

According to court documents, MS-13 was identified as a violent transnational criminal organization whose branches, or “cliques,” operate throughout the United States, including in Massachusetts. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence, specifically against rival gang members, to gain membership in and be promoted within the gang. Guzman and Sandoval were the leaders, also known as the “first word,” and “second word,” of the ESLS clique in Massachusetts.

On Sept. 20, 2015, Joel Martinez, a/k/a “Animal,” murdered a 15-year-old boy in East Boston. On Jan. 8, 2016, as a reward for the 2015 murder, Joel Martinez was promoted by the gang to “homeboy” status with a 13-second beat-in by other MS-13 members at an ESLS meeting that Guzman, Sandoval, Martinez and Argueta Larios attended.

In May 2018, Joel Martinez was sentenced to 40 years in prison and two years of supervised release after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder. In October 2018, Sandoval was sentenced to 20 years in prison and two years of supervised release. Argueta Larios and Martinez are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 19, 2018, and Nov. 28, 2018, respectively.

Guzman was one of 49 defendants convicted as part of this case. All nine defendants who went to trial were convicted and 40 others pleaded guilty. In all, 16 defendants, including Joel Martinez, were found to have committed or knowingly participated in murders.

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City has Negotiated Three Host Community Agreements with Marijuana Operators

City has Negotiated Three Host Community Agreements with Marijuana Operators

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said this week that the City has negotiated three Host Community Agreements (HCA) with marijuana operators looking to establish dispensaries in the City.

Ambrosino said all three HCAs are identical and are really a formality for the dispensaries, which include the one at the former King Arthur’s, the one on Eastern Avenue and the one on Webster Avenue at Chelsea Commons. He said the City’s policy is they would negotiate an HCA with any entity that had gotten through the process and wanted to proceed to state approval.

“My guess is that it’s another year or so before any of them are set up,” he said. “It’s my understanding that all of the enterprises with HCAs here are not very close to being approved by the state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC).”

The HCAs are the next step after the community meeting, which all three have completed. To go before the CCC, an entity must have an HCA in place, and Ambrosino said the law is clear towards what can be in those agreements.

In Chelsea’s case, the City has asked for 3 percent of gross revenues from the sales of marijuana products. Those payments will come annually and will be in addition to the 3 percent local sales tax already approved. The first 3 percent mitigation payment would come 14 months after the dispensary opens.

A second monetary piece in the agreements includes two, $30,000 payments over two years to the City’s non-profits that have an anti-drug focus.

An important aside, Ambrosino said, is that the HCA doesn’t mean the City has agreed to support the license of any entity.

“My signing off on these is not a substantive decision on them,” he said. “I’m just giving them the chance to move forward and you have to have these in place to move forward. We’ll make the substantive decisions on these proposals not behind closed doors in a negotiation, but rather at the Zoning Board and Planning Board in a public as part of a process.”

Before any of the three dispensaries could open their doors, they would need state approval from the CCC. Then they would have to come back to Chelsea and get a special permit after visiting the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and the Planning Board. If that permit is achieved, they would then have to get a license to operate from the Chelsea License Commission.

Only then could an establishment open for business.

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Cost of Thanksgiving Meal Decreases Once Again; at an Eight-Year Low

Cost of Thanksgiving Meal Decreases Once Again; at an Eight-Year Low

The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal has once-again decreased and is at its lowest cost since 2010, according to the 33rd annual American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Thanksgiving dinner survey.

The AFBF reported late last week that it had found the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 to be at $48.90 nationwide, which figures to be less than $5 per person. It was a 22-cent decrease from last year’s low of $49.12. This year’s new low has put the cost of the traditional meal at the lowest cost since 2010.

After adjusting for inflation, the cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is $19.37, the most affordable in more than a decade.

“Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010,” said AFBF Chief Economist Dr. John Newton.

A total of 166 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 37 states for this year’s survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages.

The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

The chief driver of the lowering costs is the most common item – the turkey. AFBF research showed that retail turkey prices are at the lowest costs since 2014, mostly because they are in abundant supply.

The average cost for a 16-pound turkey this year is $21.71, which is down 3 percent per pound from last year.

“Thanks to an ample supply, turkey remains affordable for consumers, which helps keep the overall cost of the dinner reasonably priced as well,” Newton said.

AFBF also highlighted other foods that showed large decreases as well. They included:

  • Gallon of milk, $2.92;
  • 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.39;
  • one-pound bag of green peas, $1.47;
  • one dozen rolls, $2.25.

Some items did show an increase, however, including Massachusetts’ own contribution to the Thanksgiving table – the cranberry. Other items on the increase included pumpkin pie mix and cubed bread, among other things.

Those increased prices were as follows:

  • 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries was $2.65;
  • 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.33;
  • 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing was $2.87;
  • two nine-inch pie shells came in at $2.47;
  • one-pound veggie tray was $.75.

A group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) was also up slightly, to $3.01.

There was no change in price for a half-pint of whipping cream at $2.08.

To provide information on the increasingly changing Thanksgiving meal, AFBF looked in at hams and other new additions. Adding a four-pound bone-in ham, five pounds of Russet potatoes, and one pound of frozen green beans added about $1 per person to the overall cost.

“Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost slightly, to $61.72 or about $6 per person,” said Newton.

AFBF also surveyed the price of a traditional Thanksgiving meal available from popular food delivery services. This revealed that the convenience of food delivery does have a larger price tag.

A 16-pound turkey was nearly 50 percent more expensive at nearly $2 per pound when purchased from a food delivery service. Nearly every individual item was more expensive compared to the do-it-yourself average and the total cost of the dinner was about 60 percent higher at about $8 per person.

The AFBF Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986, and the menu has not changed since that time for reliable comparison year to year. While AFBF does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation.

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Robert DeSalvio Speaks at JGBC Breakfast Series

Robert DeSalvio Speaks at JGBC Breakfast Series

Robert DeSalvio, president of Encore Boston Harbor, was the guest speaker at the Jordan Boys and Girls Breakfast

Robert DeSalvio, president of Encore Boston Harbor, speaks at the Jordan Boys and Girls Club Breakfast on Nov. 8 at the clubhouse
on Willow Street.

Series at the clubhouse on Willow Street.

DeSalvio presented an update on the $2.6 billion 5-star-hotel and casino that will open in Everett in June, 2019. The project is the single largest, private single-phase development in Massachusetts history.

“It’s amazing how big this is,” said JBGC Breakfast Chair Mark Robinson.

DeSalvio said construction began in August, 2016. “From the very beginning, we said we were going to do this project in 34 months, start to finish. That’s 3.1 million square feet of construction in that building, and then, of course, the landscaping and the work outside of the building.”

“On an average day out there [at the site], there are about 1,500 workers,” said DeSalvio. “We are currently averaging about seven percent of the workforce is female on the job site.”

He noted that the gaming area at Encore will be situated differently than at a typical Las Vegas casino. “When you walk in to a lot of those places, you’re literally smack in the middle of the casino. What we did is put the casino more towards the back of the building, enabling guests to come in, go to the front desk, circulate within the room tower, go to the ballroom space, go to most of the restaurants – all without actually stepping foot in the gaming area,” said DeSalvio.

The rooms in the hotel will be 650 square feet, double the size of a typical hotel room. There will be 671 rooms, of that number 104 will be suites.

DeSalvio called the ballroom event space “amazing.”

“We built one large ballroom that is 37,000 square feet – the second largest ballroom in Greater Boston – the only bigger one is at the BCEC,” said DeSalvio. “There will be 13 restaurants in the building, there’s everything from steakhouse to fine dining Italian to casual Italian, to Chinese, to Asian fusion, to sports bar – we designed a really interesting and fun craft beer outlet to take advantage of so many of the great local breweries.”

DeSalvio added that Encore is working with two Boston restaurateurs, Frank DiPasquale and Nick Varano, and the Midnight Entertainment Group, “which is Ed Kane and Randy Greenstein, and they are wonderful operators who will do the Asian fusion and the nightlife facility in the building.”

DeSalvio said there are currently 200 employees on the Encore team “and we have to get to about 5,000, so we have a little bit of hiring to do after the first of the year.”

He said they are looking for people to work in IT, finance, public relations, marketing, and engineering. “It’s all kinds of jobs, almost any job you can think of is in that building,” he said.

During the question-and-answer session, DeSalvio was asked about the security measures at the building.

“We are thinking long and hard about every aspect of the safety of that building,” said DeSalvio. “We have 3,500 cameras in and around that facility, both inside and outside the building. We have the most sophisticated surveillance technology and we cover literally everything except bedrooms and bathrooms in that building, up to and including all the guest room hallways. I want people to know that when you step foot on that property, do me one favor: have a good time but behave. And that’s what we want people to do. We want them to come in and have a good time, but if there are bad actors, we are going to be all over that.”

DeSalvio, a highly regarded leader in the hospitality and gaming industry, stayed after his remarks to further interact with the local business professionals and officials in attendance.

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TND,Traggorth to Appeal ZBA Denial of 1005 Broadway

TND,Traggorth to Appeal ZBA Denial of 1005 Broadway

The development team of The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and Traggorth Development will appeal last month’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decision to reject their 42-unit waterfront development on upper Broadway.

TND Director Rafael Mares and David Traggorth, principal of Traggorth, said they believe the project still has great value for Chelsea and for those that are being priced out of the city.

“We were motivated to propose this project because Chelsea residents are being priced out of their own city and there is an overwhelming need for all kinds of affordable housing options,” they wrote in an op-ed to the Record. “We have chosen to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeals decision because we still believe that this site offers a unique opportunity to meet critical community needs.”

Any appeal of a ZBA decision goes to Suffolk Superior Court for a hearing.

The ZBA narrowly defeated the proposal after the company engaged in several community meetings, and even changed the project after neighborhood input – lowering the height on one side and adding some market-rate units.

However, at the ZBA, the call came to reject the plan in favor of home ownership opportunities.

Chief among the opponents was Councillor Roy Avellaneda, who said the city needed people who were buying and intending to stay to preserve the community.

The op-ed said the developers agree with the idea that there needs to be more ownership, but they said they project on Broadway could not work out financially because of environmental costs.

“It is clear from the comments of those who spoke for and against the project that members of our community would like to see more opportunities for residents of Chelsea to own their own homes,” they wrote. “We agree. Opponents of the project argued that rejecting our proposal would encourage the development of homeownership opportunities and discourage more development of apartments for rent. However, the rejection of our proposal will not create any homeownership opportunities, let alone affordable ones. The limitations and costs of complying with Chapter 91 make for-sale condominiums not feasible at this site.”

While they said they want to work with the City to find ways to develop more homeownership opportunities, they also said this project was for the critical affordable housing needs of those being displaced.

This project was designed to serve current Chelsea residents who are clearly in critical need of affordable housing,” the wrote. “It is for this reason that while we work with City officials to envision how more homeownership can be built and advocate for more resources to do so, we will continue to advocate for this project.”

 

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